When I first began working with people with autism professionally as a consultant at a state operated public institution in southern Minnesota in 1968, I met older staff members who spoke with fond reminiscence of the good old days, when the institution operated a basket weaving shop, a sewing establishment and a dairy farm in which residents worked. In exchange for work, the residents were housed, provided with meals and minimal medical care, based on the poorhouse model of Victorian England (Wikipedia, 2011). In early Victorian times, poverty was seen as dishonorable caused by lack of moral virtue, i.e. industriousness. The same pattern was used throughout the US. People with disabilities unable to be competitively gainfully employed were viewed similarly.
|A Poorhouse in England|
In 1912 Creedmoor State Hospital opened in New York initially a farm colony of the Brooklyn State Hospital. The "colony house" concept spread throughout the US as part of institutional agricultural development where residents raised food for consumption within the institution and also for sale outside to the surrounding communities. Examples of colony houses are Vineland in New Jersey and Howe Farm in Massachusetts. Within such colonies, men and women with developmental disabilities were kept strictly apart from the outside communities.
|Former Farm Colony Bldg at Austin State School, in Texas|
It may come as a surprise to some, that the same type of program still exists today, but without the word “colony.”
|Food Preparation Training Beverly Farm|
Alice Watson states: “Part of the problem is that most educational and vocational programs for the under-21 group are state-run.” It isn’t at all clear why it is problematic that educational and vocational services are provided by public schools, unless Ms. Walton is suggested all of education should be privatized. All of the advocates who have spent the last 30 years attempting to improve educational services for young people with autism will be shocked at this criticism.
|Beautician Assistant Training, Autism Community, Inc,|
with autism spectrum disorders.
In closing, the headline of Alice Walton's article, "Living Life With Autism: Has Anything Really Changed?" is patently absurd to anyone who has been involved in the autism field over the past 30 years.